Thursday, April 09, 2009

Molly has previously posted an appeal from the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada on this subject-plans on the part of the federal Conservatives to change pension legislation-before. Here, however, is yet another appeal, this time from the Canadian Labour Congress(CLC) via the Canadian Union of Public Employees(CUPE).
Proposed federal pension law changes say 'fend for yourself':
The federal government is proposing changes to laws governing pensions in federally-regulated sectors of the economy. And while we agree the laws need changing, the Harper government is sending them the wrong way.

The government's proposals for 'strengthening' federal laws and regulations on pension do nothing to change the current "fend for yourself" approach to public pensions. Worse, they propose changes to regulations that would transfer risks and costs from investors and corporations to pensioners and workers.

CUPE members have an opportunity to let the federal government know that you reject the "fend for yourself" mentality.

The federal government has been holding consultation sessions in major cities, but is accepting submissions by email until April 17.
Support the CLC's call for:
***An expanded Canada pension Plan to take the pressure off private plans and offer efficient, secure defined pension benefits to nearly all Canadians.
***A federal system of pension insurance-like the Canada Deposit insurance Corporation(which ensures bank deposits), but for pensions.
Please send an email by April 17 to Ted Menzies, the MP leading the consultations to let him know you want pensions to move us all forward.
Please go to THIS LINK to send the following letter to Ted Menzies, the MP leading the consultations on the pension "reforms".

I am writing to express my support for changes to federal pension legislation and regulation that would create an enhanced Canada Pension Plan, protect pensions in the event of company bankruptcy, and set up a system of pension insurance similar to what exists for bank deposits.
The Canadian Labour Congress has put forward these demands in their brief to you, and I support their recommendations.

I am also concerned that the federal government's proposed changes would transfer risk and costs to pensioners and employees.

We need a pension system that provides protects workers pensions and provides a secure and comfortable retirement to all Canadians.
The actions of the federal government, however pale in the "ferret contest" when compared to the recent actions of the government of Ontario on the matter of pension guarantees. Here's the lowdown on those lowdowns from the pages of the Globe Investor.
Ontario pension safety net can't catch auto workers: McGuinty:
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
TORONTO — The Ontario government is moving to cut the support net for pensioners just as General Motors Corp. and Chrylser LLC teeter on the edge.

Amid fears of a bankruptcy protection filing by one of the major auto makers, the province is moving to limit the amount of money it would have to pay in a pension bailout.

Proposed new rules, contained in the province's 114-page budget bill, would give the finance minister new powers to deal unilaterally with a pension crisis, and grant Ontario's pension support fund money, but would also make it illegal for the fund to run a deficit.

The bill covers pensions in general, and does not target the auto industry specifically, but comes as General Motors and Chrysler seek government bailouts in a bid to remain afloat.

The province's safety net has been in place since 1980, and provides retirees with up to $1,000 a month if a pension plan cannot pay full benefits.

Premier Dalton McGuinty yesterday described the money available as “very, very modest.”

“That comes nowhere near meeting any liabilities – for example, for the auto sector alone, to say nothing of all the other sectors,” Mr. McGuinty said.

He added there is not “an endless supply of money” for pension bailouts.

Mr. McGuinty said his government has some responsibility to help the pensioners of General Motors of Canada Ltd. and Chrysler Canada Inc.

“We have a political and moral responsibility to pensioners,” he told reporters.(Note that these are two very different things-Molly)

But the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund is now in deficit, leaving it ill-equipped to address any pension shortfall in the province.

“We would never have all the money that would be needed to top it up to meet all the demands for all Ontarians who are experiencing troubles with their pension plans,” Mr. McGuinty said.

An official in provincial Finance Minister Dwight Duncan's office said the changes were necessary because the fund hasn't been properly managed for decades and the financial turmoil has highlighted that. “We want to get it back on track so that it's capable of serving the intended purpose,” the official said.

The omnibus bill accompanying the recent Ontario budget contains a provision to amend existing legislation, giving the finance minister new powers to deal unilaterally with such a crisis. Under existing legislation, the minister needs authorization from the lieutenant-governor to make loans to the fund. But under the proposed changes, the minister could make grants to the fund on his own.

The budget bill also says the legislation will be revised to state that the fund's liabilities cannot exceed its assets.

“I really think it's the GM issue,” said Mitch Frazer, a pension lawyer at Torys LLP. “This is the last remaining too-big-to-fail plan.”

Pension experts estimate GM Canada's total pension shortfall may exceed $6-billion. Chrysler says its plans should be almost fully funded this year.

There are also fears that auto parts makers with large operations in Ontario would collapse if one or both of the auto makers filed for court protection. Some parts companies could fail even if GM and Chrysler succeed in restructuring outside of the courts.

“The government is basically saying ‘If we have a whole series of bankruptcies, we're not going to be there to backstop the fund, let's make that very clear,'” Mr. Frazer said. “All you need is one large bankruptcy and you wipe out all the money in the fund.”

Canadian Auto Workers president Ken Lewenza said the Ontario government is partly responsible for the pension crisis at GM Canada because of 1992 legislation that enabled the company to underfund its own plans.

“GM has paid a very substantial proportion of the premiums that have been collected over the years by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund,” he said in a statement. “So for the government to now suggest that retired auto workers would be denied the protection of this fund is unconscionable.”

Retired auto workers worried about their pensions dogged federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty yesterday in Oshawa, Ont., yesterday.

Ontario New Democratic MPP Paul Miller called on the McGuinty government to “step up to the plate” and create a different type of pension protection in the province.

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